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Panda Updates – Wednesday, January 23

Ya Lun and Xi Lun achieved a pretty big accomplishment last week: they participated in their first voluntary blood draws! At Zoo Atlanta, all of our training is voluntary for the animals, and if at any time they don’t want to participate, they don’t have to. We focus on training behaviors with the animals that allow them to participate in their own healthcare, and by training the giant pandas for voluntary blood draws, we are able to monitor their health at an even closer level than the visual checks we do every day.

Training for blood draws takes some time, and the giant panda care team and veterinary team have been working on it for a while. We first acclimate the giant pandas to the sleeve we attach to the exterior of their holding areas (just like any other day, we never share a space with the giant pandas, even while training). After they are comfortable with that, we ask them to place their arm in, turn it over, and hold it there for an extended period of time. In fact, after reaching this step, it is often more difficult to ask the giant pandas to take their arms out, because they have such a good association with the sleeve! They know that they are going to get a lot of yummy rewards while their arm is in position for the blood draw. Next, we bring up our veterinary team and get the giant pandas used to seeing them and their equipment. After some patience and time, we were able to collect a blood sample from both Ya Lun and Xi Lun! They didn’t even seem to notice, and enjoyed the extra leafeater biscuits and time with their care teams.

From not liking sugarcane (Xi Lun still isn’t a fan), to learning and completing complex veterinary behaviors in a matter of weeks, these two continue to surprise us! They are growing up into quite charismatic and smart bears, just like their parents and siblings before them.
Danica W.
Keeper II, Mammals

(photo by Danica W.)

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